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Is Memory a Replaceable Tool?

Maia Popa, XII A


Psychologists argue that memory is never exact - it’s always reconstructed. Whether we consider the accuracy of memories or the ability with which we are able to recall things to our mind, one thing is always valid: memory is a fluid and viscous concept, and the science behind it confirms the fact that our memories can most often be tremendously deceitful. 

To begin with, the human mind’s limit capacity for retaining information is unknown. While the mind is able to process and retain an indefinite number of memories, some memories can decay or be replaced by others if the retrieval cues start to fade away. While memory loss is most often associated with accidents or traumatic events, such as retrograde amnesia, one of the most paramount instances of memory failure due to the loss of retrieval cues is childhood amnesia, when an individual fails to recall anything before the age of three as a result of an ever-changing environment and the acquisition of language. 

In the context of our highly technological age, the reliance on memory has significantly plummeted, as more and more people tend to endorse relying on electronic devices rather than their own memories out of fear of forgetting. We live in a second-hand manner, living through the videos and photos stored on our phones. Nonetheless, it has been proven that memory encoding and integration come with in-depth analysis. Thus, the more we interact and add sense to something we want to remember, the better we will be able to store it in our mind. Hence, the paradox of eschewing using our memory out of the fear of its failure might lead to a significant decrease in the development of our internal memory system in the future. 

Furthermore, the more we rely on outer sources to store our memories, the more disconnected we grow from our authentic selves. While implicit memory - the things that we remember subconsciously - plays a tremendous role in forming our personality, explicit memory is the one that abets in outlining our persona. Regardless of its accuracy, memory lies at the basis of our identity; all aspects of ourselves stem from it. With severe memory loss, we also lose our perception of our own identity and the ability to distinguish between self and others. For instance, Clive Wearing, a world-renowned choir director and musical arranger, suffered brain damage and lost the ability to form new memories. Thus, he lives in a continuum of gaining consciousness and “waking up” every minute or so, without remembering anything prior to the current moment. In spite of keeping a diary of each one of his awakenings, he has no recollection of them and denies any connection to it or himself. 

The human mind has the ability to adjust to new changes, thus, the proliferation of technology in the context of memory might not be as impactful as some precognize. Nevertheless, it is salient that we must keep a threshold of our cognitive abilities, and not allow them to fall beneath it. 

To conclude with, memory has an irrefutable role in our self and our identity. While we tend to rely more and more on external sources to stock memory, it is patent that its paramount role remains definitive, regardless of its accuracy or the possibility of creating false memories.

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